Insider Only NHL: Kovalchuk, Devils resume talks; Kariya, Ducks latest?

By Will DePaoli and James Conley
NHL News and Notes: Arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled in favor of the NHL today in the Ilya Kovalchuk case. This was a major win for the NHL as the league has their eye on dramatically changing the structure of contracts in the next CBA. The CBA is set to expire in September 2012.
Bloch stated in his ruling that the contract was fully compliant with the CBA but felt it was a retirement contract.
New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello issued a statement this evening and remains hopeful that the team will be able to resign Kovalchuk.
“We have reviewed and respect Arbitrator Bloch’s ruling in the Kovalchuk matter. We also note and appreciate his finding that nothing in his opinion should be read as suggesting that either the club or Ilya Kovalchuk operated in bad faith or on the basis of any assumption other than that the Standard Player Contract was fully compliant with the CBA. That has been our consistent position throughout.
“While we do not currently have a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, discussions have resumed and we are hopeful that a contract will be reached that meets with the principles in Arbitrator Bloch’s award and the NHL’s approval.”
Early indications are Kovalchuk remains fully committed to reaching a revised deal with the Devils and at least for the short-term won’t negotiate with any other teams.
The big question centering around today’s decision is whether the league will go after other long-term contracts that have already been approved and registered by the league.
Marian Hossa signed a similarly extensive, front-loaded deal with Chicago last year. Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Chris Pronger and others have similar deals in place. It was believed that the NHL was a longshot to win the appeal. Now that it has, is the door open for the NHL to backtrack on these other long-term contracts?
Less than two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, Commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t rule out reviewing other deals in the event that the league won the Kovalchuk case.
*All-time leading Duck’s scorer Teemu Selanne signed a one-year deal worth $3.25 million to stay with Anaheim. The 40 year-old Finnish forward is now set to enter his 19th season in the NHL. Selanne logged only 54 games last season due to injury.
35th on the all-time NHL scoring list, Selanne is actively courting the return of former teammate Paul Kariya to the Ducks.
Don Baizley, the agent for Kariya also represents Selanne and there has already been multiple conversations between Baizley and Ducks GM Bob Murray regarding Kariya’s potential return.
No official offer has been made but word is that Kariya is hopeful to push forward in talks this week. The Ducks currently have about $10 million in cap space, although the team has implemented their own cap ceiling which has hampered talks with Bobby Ryan who is currently unsigned.
However, Kariya is believed to be determined to return to Anaheim even at a salary in the $1-to-$2 million range. At this time he is not negotiating with other teams as his focus is only on Anaheim.
More NHL Buzz

Exodus: Chicago continues. Centerman John Madden signed a one-year, one-million dollar deal with the Minnesota Wild over the weekend. The 37 year-old forward brings experience to a Wild squad in search of an identity after finishing last season 13th in the Western Conference.
The Wild now boast three strong centermen, last month acquiring former Hurricane Matt Cullen for three years. C Mikko Koivu, Minnesota’s captain, signed a seven year contract extension earlier this year.
*Maxim Afinogenov is going home. The Russian forward signed a five-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. The deal is worth just over $13 million according to agent Don Meehan.
Afinogenov had a bounce-back season last year with the Atlanta Thrashers but could not land the kind of multi-year deal in North America which he sought. Prior to 2009-10, Afinogenov spent several seasons underachieving for the Buffalo Sabres, leaving NHL GM’s weary of signing the forward for any extended time. SKA St. Petersburg landed former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov earlier this summer and made an offer to Ilya Kovalchuk
*The Edmonton Oilers signed veteran goalie Martin Gerber to a one-year deal. The 35 year-old netminder spent last season in the KHL. Gerber is a lifetime 2.65/.910 goalies with a 110-78-21 record with Anaheim, Carolina, Ottawa and Toronto in 226 NHL games. Gerber joins fellow veteran Nikolai Khabibulin and Jeff Deslauriers in Edmonton.
*The Red Wings signed defenseman Ruslan Salei to a one-year deal. The former Avalanche defenseman played 15 total games in an injury-plagued 2009-10 campaign.
He joins Mike Modano as the latest veteran to sign with Detroit. Barring injury, the Red Wings are making a strong push to reclaim the Western Central Division from the new-look Blackhawks, but one has to wonder if the injury bug won’t again attack a team that continues signing older players to an already veteran roster.
*Chris Chelios will reportedly spend the 2010-11 season as a member of the Detroit front office. GM Ken Holland hasn’t laid out specific duties or a title for the 48 year-old, but says he will join the team in some capacity.
Former Flyer Riley Cote also signed on as an assistant Coach to Philadelphia AHL affiliate.

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